We quickly identify with the physical body. It is, after all, what we feel and experience. But we are more than that. Perhaps less tangible, but no less real, is the energy that exists within our physical bodies.
Life force. Life energy. Breath. That is the meaning of the Sanskrit term prana. While it also refers to actual air, our breath, in Ayurveda and in Yoga - especially Kundalini Yoga - prana is an important term that refers more to life energy or a universal force. Yoga can be accurately described as a practice for increasing and strengthening prana. Well-known counterparts to prana from other traditions are qi, chi or ki from qigong, tai chi and reiki. Prana, then, is a life force that plays a role in all Eastern practices.
Just as our blood flows through veins, prana has its own pathways through which it permeates the body. The nadis. They are the equivalent of the meridians that many know from TCM. It is said that there are 72,000 nadis, however, in yoga, we deal mainly with the three main channels. Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. With the help of the bandhas, or energy closures, the yogi then tries to direct the flowing prana to the desired regions. The goal is to clear blockages and thus get the prana flowing and maintain good health.
Prana is found in all living things - it is ultimately the crucial difference between a real flower and a plastic flower. Prana is when we notice someone standing behind us without noticing them with our five senses, or a great atmosphere at a party, or the charisma that some people exude. People with pronounced prana are considered attractive and especially people with a not-so-abundant prana seek their closeness. Even the immediate sympathy between perfect strangers is explained by prana.
What can we do to increase our prana? And where does it come from in the first place?
There are five sources through which we can absorb prana.
Earth (Prithvi) or also our food
Water (Apas) or also our liquid intake
Fire (Tejas) or also our daylight
Air (Vayu), the air we breathe
Ether (Akasha), which is power we receive from other people or from places of power.
So when we breathe in, we take in prana. This is an important reason why in yoga we practice pranayama and try to improve our breath. So with our practice, we also change the quality of prana in and around us.
To increase our prana, we need to make the best use of our five sources. In terms of food and drink, it is almost obvious what is meant. We also know daylight and fresh air as energy sources. The most abstract source for us is probably interpersonal relationships. But if we look more closely, we can see the difference between the people in whose company we feel stimulated, inspired and full of energy, and the people who rob us of our energy, who paralyze us. This is also an exchange of prana.
The Chakras – Centers with concentrated Prana
The Chakras - Centers with concentrated Prana
Important in connection with Prana is also the Chakras - our energy centers. This is where prana gathers. In yoga, we usually focus on the seven main chakras that stack upward along the spine. Each one is associated with different glands and organs, and it is said that the health of each part of the body depends on a well-balanced flow of energy in the chakras. Conversely, if there is a blockage of prana, disharmony can result, which then affects the physical and emotional levels. Our yoga practice, whether it is asana, meditation or pranayama, keeps the prana in a good, healthy flow.
The 5 different types of prana
The prana is divided into five vayus. This distinguishes the flow directions and functions.
The 5 pranas are:
- Prana Vayu governs the region between the diaphragm and throat. It moves downward and governs inhalation and swallowing. It is related to our intelligence, nervous system and breathing. For its activation, pranayama such as Bhastrika, Nadi Shodana or Ujjayi are good exercises.
- Udana Vayu sits in the throat and controls our speech, energy, will, memory and exhalation. Udana governs positive energy, enthusiasm and strength. Ujjayi, Bhramari and Viparita Karani Mudra are activating exercises.
Samana Vayu is located in the stomach and small intestine and governs the digestive system here. It is used to distribute the energy of food in the body. Here Agnisara and Nauli are stimulating exercises. But Samana also governs mental digestion and gives us a sense of contentment and balance. When Samana Vayu is disturbed, we tend to cling to material things and exhibit possessive behavior.
- Vyana Vayu is concentrated in the heart, but affects the whole body. It regulates the circulation and movement of our joints and muscles. Vyana also regulates mental circulation and gives us independence of mind, but also causes for isolation and alienation when it is not in balance. With Kumbhaka, this prana can be activated and strengthened, which also has a positive effect on meditation practice.
- Apana Vayu is located in the lower abdomen and regulates all downward excretions here (bowel movements, urine, menstruation and so on). Exercises such as Nauli, Agnisara, Ashvini Mudra and Mula Bandha have an activating effect. But Apana is also responsible for eliminating toxic thoughts and negative emotions.
So through asana, pranayama and meditation, we can strengthen our energy flow. But not only the internal energy flow, but also the prana that we give off to our environment. What we understand by aura or radiance is basically the prana that we feel. And it is here that prana is clearly experienced by many. When you meet people with a strong attractive aura. Or even people we perceive as negative and repulsive. Inner tension, illness or even harmony and health can be easily sensed.
It is important to consider prana as coherent energy. An energy that connects us with the universe and every living being in this world. Prana is the foundation of all life, a force that fills the entire universe.